New Hampshire Dems Want Congress to Review 2002 Phone-Jamming Scheme

New Hampshire Democrats say they will ask Congress to investigate whether prosecution of a Republican phone-jamming scheme on Election Day 2002 was intentionally delayed until after the presidential election two years later.

The furor over alleged political firings of eight federal prosecutors prompted the move, Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the state's Democratic Party, told The Associated Press Tuesday.

In 2002, Republicans hired a telemarketing firm to place hundreds of hang-up calls to phone banks for the Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters union, a nonpartisan group offering rides to the polls on Election Day. Service was disrupted for about 90 minutes on Election Day.

The case resulted in four criminal convictions, including that of strategist James Tobin, who was New England chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign in 2004.

Tobin was not indicted until December 2004, a month after Bush won re-election. Allegations of his involvement in the scheme led him to resign his post with Bush's campaign a month before the election.

Members of Congress seeking answers to questions about the prosecutor firings should seek some about phone-jamming at the same time, Sullivan said.

"Why did it take so long for the indictment against Mr. Tobin to be brought?" she asked. "His name was apparently out there and known to the Department of Justice for several months and yet nothing was done with him until after the 2004 election."

Sullivan said a request to the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, should go out in a day or two.

Democrats contend the Justice Department and White House purged eight federal prosecutors, some of whom were leading political corruption investigations, after a change in the Patriot Act gave Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the new authority.

Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman, said the phone-jamming investigation was conducted thoroughly and aggressively by career professionals in Washington.

Tobin was convicted of telephone harassment and sentenced to 10 months in prison. He has appealed.

State Republicans settled a civil lawsuit last year for $135,000.